It’s not exactly a newsflash or a secret, but smoking is really bad for you. But if you have HIV, then it’s exponentially worse for you in a number of ways. Recent research has shown that smoking and HIV are a potentially deadly mix that can make a bad situation worse, and fatal.
A recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine noted “over 40% of PLWH [people living with HIV] in the United States smoke cigarettes,” which is why it is so crucial to uncover this connection between smoking and CD4 count. Remember, people with HIV are already at risk for developing deadly infections and illnesses. The last thing they need is to participate in a bad and unhealthy habit that will further increase that risk.
Before We Dive into Smoking and HIV, a Brief Refresher
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks your immune system. It is most often passed from one infected individual to another through unprotected sexual intercourse, as it is spread through bodily fluids including semen, vaginal fluid and blood. HIV can also be spread through shared needles or childbirth, and even breastfeeding. There is currently no cure; once you have this virus, you have it for life.
According to the CDC, “HIV harms your body’s infection fighters — the cells of the immune system called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that your body can’t fight off infections and disease.” Having HIV puts you at risk for developing infections, ranging from opportunistic infections like the common cold to more serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. When your body can no longer produce enough T cells to fight off illness, HIV progresses to full-blown AIDs, and ultimately AIDs will lead to death.
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